The new Mormon Times.

Joe Walker is the Online Editor of the Deseret Morning News and the editor of its new LDS online portal, The Mormon Times. He agreed to write a little about this new initiative at the DMN.

For some months now people have been noticing changes on the Deseret News website with regards to coverage of all things Mormon.

It started on the Web site’s LDS Newsline section, with an effort to post links to stories from all around the world that would be of interest to Mormon readers (including way more links than any of us would like to remember about why — or why not — a Mormon could/should be elected president). Then LDS Newsline started posting original features that were unique to the Web, including a Mormon Media Observer, a Mormon Pop columnist and, more recently, a columnist who provided regular coverage of what is going on in the Bloggernacle.

All of this was leading up to the launch of MormonTimes.com, a Web site aimed at providing news and information specifically for and about Mormons. The Web site is created and managed by the Deseret News (which, of course, is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but it is NOT an official LDS Web site. We’re not “correlated” (read and approved in advance by Church officials), as is the LDS Church News. It isn’t really our intention to “cover” the Church. Rather, we want to cover the MEMBERS of the Church, and what it means to be a Mormon in our ever-changing world.

As you cruise around the site I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of what we’re trying to do. Yes, we do a lot of story aggregation, and yes there are a lot of sites out there that aggregate LDS-oriented stories. The thing that is different about our aggregation (not necessarily better, just different) is we are hands-on aggregators. Stories don’t just appear on our aggregation. We search them out, look at them and make a decision about whether or not to include it on our site. And then we write a little paragraph introducing you to the story, so you kind of get an idea of what the story is and why we chose to include it on MormonTimes.com, as opposed to most other aggregation sites that pretty much just give you a headline.

Better? Maybe. But at the very least, different.

There are also original columns and features and a number of reader participation opportunities. For example, our movie page (which isn’t up yet, but soon!) will include a lot of factual information about movies and will rely on readers for actual movie reviews. We will also be taking reader input on our books page (which is also due to be posted soon). And we have a section called “MormonSpeak” in which we post questions and ask readers to share their ideas and experiences.

And if that sounds like a step toward a full-on blog, you’re right. To be honest, we’re a little uncertain about how we’re going to integrate blogging, or even reader comments, on our Web site. As moderators of reader comments to stories on the Deseret News Web site, we’ve been kind of discouraged by the anger and bitterness we see in those comments every day. Those with an axe to grind seize every possible opportunity to vent their venom and vitriol — especially toward the LDS Church. And we are not remotely interested in being the online headquarters for Mormon bashing. Still, we DO want to give readers an opportunity to share ideas and experiences, and we are open to the possibility of sincere questions and discussions. We just have to figure out the best way to monitor and control that.

So we’re headed toward blogging — we’re just not sure what form it will eventually take. Meanwhile, we will congtinue to refer people to the best of what we see in the Bloggernacle. We will take reader comments on missions and movies and books and spiritual experiences, and we are creating a “Letters to the editor” kind of format. And we have a section for Q&A, which includes a lot of information from the FAIR folks. And we encourage people to send their questions to us and we will work with FAIR to get answers for them.

So what you see on MormonTimes.com is kind of who we are — at least, right now. We are definitely still in development. We’re going to be evolving and changing as we learn and grow. Please feel free to send me your comments and suggestions — we really do want to get better. We have no delusions about being all things to all Mormons, but we think we can at least be something — and that our “something” will be worthwhile.

Comments

  1. I wish you could set up the Mormon Times page with a feed so we can subscribe through Google Reader and other services. Otherwise I fear I won’t remember to check the site very often…

  2. Chris makes an important point. Part of the problem of moving towards blogging, as you note, is that you have to manage the community (i.e., comment moderation).

    Hats off to you guys for trying to expand the horizon a little bit, though.

  3. Chris, I agree — a feed is crucial.

  4. Ditto on RSS feeds.

    I wish other Mega LDS blogs used RSS feeds for their side blogs like BCC did.

  5. Don’t worry. The Church will move towards RSS feeds at roughly about the same time their own IT staff discovers that they exist…

  6. Actually, queuno, the rss feeds at lds.org (including the newsroom) are quite good.

  7. Actually, queuno, the rss feeds at lds.org (including the newsroom) are quite good.

    ;)

  8. (Sorry for the sarcasm. The Church has improved light years in their IT infrastructure. I actually have most of the Church RSS feeds into Google Reader. And the tech.lds.org forms are quite good…)

  9. Sanford Barrett says:

    Joe, as a subscriber to both the Tribune and the Deseret News for many years I am sensitive to the rap that the DN is too soft in its coverage of Mormon related matters. I think for the most part that assertion is unfair. Nonetheless, when I learned of the plans for the LDS Newsline, I was worried that its inclusion would cause the DN to become more like the Church News and less of a real newspaper. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that the new section is pretty even handed. For example, I thought the story on the Jessop resignation didn’t pull any punches. I have especially liked Emily Jensen’s Blogernacle round up and am pleased to see that she references sites that are about as far from correlation as you can get. I appreciate the work you and your reporters do. Good luck with the new section and please continue presenting uncorrelated news.

  10. I must say that over at Mormon Matters we appreciate the links and attention you have given us. ;)

  11. They really are trawling the Bloggernacle for stuff to refer people to. Heck, they even included a link to my humble little blog once. I was surprised and, I suppose, grateful. The new section and Web site really are kind of interesting, which is more than I would have expected.

    By the way, Sanford, I agree with your assessment of the Deseret Morning News regarding its coverage of the Church. I would add that the same is true of the paper in general. Of course, if you’re a Mormon living in Utah and you want to look cool or liberal or open-minded, you take the Tribune. But that decision is usually based more on perception than reality.

  12. Joe, thanks for posting on the Mormon Times. I found the LDS Newsline a very nice resource, and I’m sure the Mormon Times will be even more of an online resource. I worry a bit about the definition of “the Bloggernacle,” which I see as a linked community of LDS bloggers who speak from a believing perspective and refrain from pointed criticism of LDS leaders and doctrines (while not shying away from discussion of controversial issues).

    The problem with using a wider definition (say “all weblogs that post about LDS issues”) is that the wider definition implies some sort of common enterprise or shared perspective. In fact, any such wider pool of blogs would include many blogs and bloggers who disagree strongly about Mormonism and even about how one should go about publicly discussing it.

    This is not a new issue for the Bloggernacle. But as a new player in the online discussion, you should be aware of the issue and give some thought to how you identify, label, and discuss the community or communities of LDS weblogs.

  13. a random John says:

    I miss having Joe as the TV critic. That said, I don’t read any TV critics anymore…

  14. a random John says:

    Sanford,

    Can you please link to the Jessop story you are talking about? The one I read doesn’t seem to have any punches to pull. Unless you count the tidbit in the third paragraph mentioning that some members didn’t understand that Jessop was reading his resignation letter as a punch.

    The Deseret News could have at least given Jessop the chance to address the speculation that his resignation is in some way connected to the Danzig story.

  15. Sanford Barrett says:

    To random John

    After I said no punches were pulled, I wondered if I had been too generous. Perhaps. But as the story broke it was (and still is I suppose) unclear what was going on. It’s hard to fault the D News for not reporting more at the time. It’s not like the Tribune had a lot more information. Having said that, I would appreciate a follow up article filling in some of the blanks.